Storage Room Progress and Plans

January 17, 2017  —  Written by Julia Marcum 

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We made a big dent in the storage room progress over the last few weeks, so I thought I’d take some time to officially introduce you to her and the plans we have. But first, here’s a before photo from when we moved in. The room is 18.5 ft long x 7.5 ft wide–a pretty generously sized storage room.

If you’re like us, maybe you’re blinded by how finished everything looks, to really pay attention to how it might function. When we first looked at the house, we were so impressed by the painted concrete floors and how the shelves were painted instead of left wood. And even though the room sported “boob” lights, they were nicer boob lights…which actually doesn’t look better, but you could tell effort was put in to this room. After we moved in, and were getting settled, a lot of boxes, holiday storage and luggage ended up here in our storage room, naturally. And it was only then that we realized that we had a problem.

(rough picture!)

The room, with 11″ deep shelves (and not much taller) was built for food storage and not really any other kind of storage. This is a good time to probably mention, we are believers in food storage and emergency preparation. However, over the course of our marriage, we’ve discovered–partially due to the way Chris likes to cook and eat along with my medical needs–we don’t eat a lot of dried pantry goods. During our first couple years of marriage, we’d stock a few months supply of emergency food only to have it all expire because we never rotated through it.

When we moved here, we decided it’s still important to have an emergency stash of food, and we invested in a six month supply for our family of the 25 year shelf life stuff. There’s a variety of breakfasts, lunches and dinners that you only have to add water to. That way, if there’s an emergency, we’ll have something to eat but we don’t have to constantly worry about it expiring. So we’ll keep some of the shelves shallow on one side to accommodate that, but as for the rest of the room, it’s looking more like this now.

If you listened to last week’s podcast, you know we emptied everything out of the room first. We made three piles: keep, donate and trash. We ended up bringing the biggest pile to our local thrift store. Everything from clothes and shoes, to home decor, toys, old luggage sets and electronics, and holiday decor. Dropping all that off was a huge weight lifted.

Once the room was cleared, Chris demo’d out the majority of existing shelving and we made plans to rebuild. We’ll be building extra deep shelves on the back wall (where there were no existing shelves at all previously) and the right side of the room will have shelves about 27″ deep to accommodate standard sized storage bins.

And then we had kind of a crazy idea. Could we add a mini workout area to this room? Right now, there is a 7′ square space from where the shelves finish to the end of the room where you walk in. It could be just enough room for a treadmill and a few free weights. To which Chris chimed in, “Maybe we could mount a small TV.” The more I thought about it, the more I warmed up to the idea of adding some every day function to the space too.

We hope to have the new shelves built this week, and everything re-painted. I’m even considering repainting the concrete floor lighter (or warmer?) to not clash with the shelves which I envision going a little darker on, similar to these beautiful built-ins found here. (I believe the color is Cape May Cobblestone by Benjamin Moore.)

Besides that, we have ordered two of these industrial-style lights to replace the boob lights and I’ve started looking at the never-ending storage tupperware options out there. In my mind, I’d love everything to be matching, with a label distinguishing what’s inside. Or is it easier to have lid colors coordinate to different holidays/categories?

I’m sure a few of you are wondering if we’re putting too much effort into a storage room. But, time after time, and room after room, I have learned you get out what you put into a room. If we take extra time and effort on paint color and finishes and making it look as good as it functions, I know in the long run, the room will serve us better and we’ll be more motivated to keep it looking like photoshoot day. Excited to share more progress with you in the coming weeks!

What do you think?

  1. Lauren B says:

    I like all the same clear kind of bin (uniform in look and helpful in the event that you need to stack them) and while a numbered key may look cleaner, we just use standard size Avery labels and good handwriting. :) We can easily pop on a new label over the old should we reorganize things. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you’d want to spend time on this! It’s always so annoying when you can’t find what you’re looking for. Worth doing it and doing it right.

  2. amy says:

    I love the idea of matching bins. You build it right from the beginning. If its 10 or 20 bins – then that’s what you get! I say this and none of mine match, but I have also decided I am no longer buying bins. I’m 45 and don’t need more crap! Now I know why our parents give us stuff to take home every time we visit. :)
    I can’t wait to see how it turns out.

  3. Kathy Boyer says:

    “boob lights” hurrah! Ha ha ha. I was so surprised to read that. You must have explained these somewhere else (new reader). I thought I was the only one to think that. I wish I could have seen those boob lights in the before photos just to make sure I was on the right track. I hate boob lights! I am totally serious.

  4. Cassie says:

    We’ve been working on new storage solutions in our messy basement storage room and have found that in addition to storage bins having a couple sets of storage drawers has been really helpful as well. It allows us to store things that are needed more than once a year but less than monthly/daily (batteries, light bulbs, infrequently used/ specialty baking things). This makes it so much easier to organize and we just slide open a drawer rather than having to pull down a bin and dig through it. It takes up about the same amount of space as a bin so that’s a bonus. we use a couple like these (minus the wheels)

  5. I’m way late to the game here, but if it’s going to be a gym as well foam flooring is always a good option and this is some that could give you that wood look you like but inexpensive and super functional! I know it’s a reach, but we got some in black for out workout space and it worked amazing!

    Per usual, can’t wait to see it complete!

  6. Catherine says:

    I use a paint pen on the side of the tote to write what’s in it. If things change you can use a magic eraser to wipe it off and start over. We built shelves out of 2×4 and plywood that fit the bins height. Works out great!

  7. Amelia says:

    My vote is all the same clear bins. 3 years ago we reorganized our storage room and I have been able to flow the same bins in and out of rotation based on need bc they all match. FYI I store my seasonal/holiday decorations according to the calendar year so it is easy to locate Valentines, Easter, Fourth of July etc. HTH

  8. Judith says:

    I’m totally with you on doing every room right. The idea of adding a little workout area is great! If you spend more time in there than putting stuff in or out of there though, I’d probably put in some real flooring instead of painting the cement floor. Maybe vinyl planks. They come in nice wood-like design, aren’t expensive, but warmer on the feet than laminate (or cement), are easy to clean and can take a lot abuse. It could make for a really nice looking room.

    About the storage bins: having a key instead of seeing the contents written on the box would probably drive me batty (my mind just doesn’t work that way). I also see the logic of not wanting to scrape off other labels. What I’ve been doing is using clear boxes, but sticking a huge piece of paper/cardboard with the content list inside the box on the front side, facing out. Since it’s clear, I can see what’s written on there without problem, but switching the cards out is super simple as well. They also can’t fall off or otherwise lost.

    Adding a colour code by putting coloured stripes inside, for example along the bottom rim, would work really well too, without the problem of a coloured bin top not being correct anymore later on.

  9. Rebecca says:

    I squeezed a work-out room into my basement storage room and use the top shelf of a rolling cart to hold my free weights. I love having it and work-out at least 2-3 times a week in there. Great idea!!

  10. Jill T. M. says:

    My parents had colour-coordinated bins for seasonal decorations. The problem for them was that as they added/subtracted decorations, some of the bins became obsolete. So now some Christmas items are in orange-topped bins.

    Also, are you planning on water storage? If so, where will you put it?

    • Kimmy says:

      I’ll have to look into it. I was diagnosed after having an abrupt amount of odd symptoms my skin was really dry, my hair was thinning, my memory was suddenly suffering and I was extremely extremely tired ALL THE TIME and that was in High School. I’ve taken synthroid and cytomill (sp?) on and off since then but found I feel best when I exercise A LOT. I’m vegetarian and have been since college for other unrelated health reasons but the GF thing is surprising to hear although not really when you consider that gluten causes inflammation in some people. I am mostly GF bc of my spouse but I noticed now days when I eat regular bread my face breaks out and I get eczema like patches near my nose and mouth. I had been feeling okay and off meds for a few years but since having a baby a little over a year ago I’ve been meaning to go in and get tested again bc those same symptoms are starting up again. (This is probably all TMI as well) I might need to overhaul my diet again and see if that helps at all.

      Thanks for sharing! I’ll look into Hashimoto.

    • Whitney says:

      Any autoimmune issue benefits from lifestyle changes that help with inflammation. In addition to eliminating gluten, some people also find that being vegan is really helpful. My parent’s small city in Texas’s hospital is leading a city-wide intervention to get people on plant-based vegan diets because so many people are diabetic, have heart disease, etc. My sister-in-law also has an auto-immune disease that she’s had to take high doses of prednisone consistently for 4 years to keep in check. She started drinking 2 tablespoons of turmeric a day (mixed with hot water or some people do milks) and has been able to completely stop taking prednisone! So glad your food choices have helped your health, Julia!

  11. Kimmy says:

    Is it too nosey to ask what medical conditions?

    • Julia says:

      I have hashimotos (hypothyroidism) and I eat pretty clean and mostly gluten free in conjunction with medication to keep me going.

      • Kimmy says:

        I was also diagnosed with hypothyroid in high school but I’ve never heard it referred to as hashiomtos? Is that a more severe version of it? Also I’ve never been told that GF would help…I’ve had this for almost 20 years, how do I not know these things? Hmm do you have any books or sites that you recommend I read?


      • Julia says:

        Hashimotos is basically an autoimmune disease that has lead to hypothyroidism for me. When I was first diagnosed, my body wasn’t responding to medicine alone, so my doctor prescribed a gluten free diet in conjunction with medicine (I take Armour Thyroid) and exercise. 6 months in, I felt like a new person and after 3 years we were finally able to get pregnant with our second child. Maybe TMI, but I can never stop spreading the word about how much diet has improved my quality of life.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Hi Kimmy and Julia a great website for info is Aviva is a Dr and herbalist.

  12. Diana says:

    Being from the South, I never considered having such a food stash. I love getting a glimpse into how people from other parts of the country live. :)

    How lucky are you to have such a great storage space! Your time is certainly not wasted by getting it just right. I would want to do the same if I had the space. Can’t wait to see the reveal!!

  13. Kimberly says:

    I love your comment about getting out what you put into a room, I couldn’t agree more. The last room I worked on was our storage room and I managed to get a broken foot out of it. I guess I should have be a little nicer to those old particle board shelves…

  14. Marcia says:

    Years ago I went to an organizing mini-seminar. The presenter leading it suggested that instead of labeling storage boxes with what they contained, we should just number them. We should then make an index card for each box with the number of the box and the contents. As the contents changed, we wouldn’t have to relabel boxes – just update the index card. We did it for a while and it worked pretty well. Of course if what your storing doesn’t change very much, her system wouldn’t be as useful.

  15. Genevieve says:

    The paint color of the green grey built-ins is Gettysburg Grey by Benjamin Moore. Cape May Cobblestone is brighter, which I love, but more neutral & less green.

  16. AlisonG says:

    You can’t spend too much time on any project. Do it right the first time as they say. It is a room like any other and will actually have a lot of function to boot. I agree about a ceiling fan for the exercise area. Is this your “forever” house? Just curious, if it is all the more reason to spend extra time on every space and project..

  17. Julie says:

    Every time you posted a picture of the storage room, I thought those were containers of oatmeal! Hahah.

  18. Trudy says:

    When we built our storage in the garage and under the stairs, we built the shelves to be able to store a 56 quart Sterlite clear bin. It’s my go to for storage and the shelves work really well. So glad we did it

  19. monica says:

    Wow – I am new to this idea of that much emergency food in storage. I live just outside of Boston, am in my mid 50’s and have two teenagers. It has never occurred to me to have actual emergency food, other than the canned and dry goods in my pantry. As far as I know none of my friends or relatives have a true emergency supply of food as shown here – am so curious to ask if this is a typical thing for other readers and whether or not this is a regional thing?

    • Jess says:

      It’s often associated with Mormons, which I think Chris and Julia are, however, I live in MN and am not a Mormon but think it’s a great idea to have some type of food storage. I aim for a couple of months. You just never know when something might happen. For us it would be a blizzard, something Boston can relate to as well! Most people think it means that those of us who have food storage think the end of the world is coming, but I think it’s irresponsible not to have emergency food/items. What if the roads were too icy/covered with snow, etc. to get to the store? Could you be okay for a few days? Do you have a collected first aid kit in one place or are you constantly scrambling for band aids and neosporin? Stuff like that. Even the US govt’s. FEMA page suggests a small food storage and safety items just in case. Hurricane Katrina certainly showed us that to be prepared is a wise thing.

      • Julia says:

        We are Mormon, but I don’t think it’s specific to our religion. We’re just taught the importance of being prepared for exactly the reasons you explained–not really “the end of the world.” A winter storm, an extended power outage, even if someone lost their job and we were short on cash! We like to have first aid, generators, food, water–things like that on hand as a safety precaution.

      • monica says:

        Hi – just getting back to this interesting discussion – I do have enough food in house to go quite a while- at least a few weeks (rice, grains, flour, dried and canned beans, pasta, boxes of breakfast cereal – something I have learned when I have prepared to move and tried to use up all the food beforehand!). We live a mile or two from numerous stores (Trader Joes, Whole Foods, CVS, Walgreens and a normal regional grocery store (a Stop and Shop) so we can walk places if they are open. I have a good supply of first aid items (two teenage boys who play sports = need for this kind of stuff), which I buy at Costco. I also buy batteries from Costco, so always have many on hand, and of course have flashlights, candles, etc. Just so interesting to me how people elsewhere live and think about things!

    • Nichole K says:

      I’m also from the Northwest, and food preparedness (and preparedness in general) is a big thing here with our rather harsh winters. You never know how long you may be without power if an ice or wind storm comes through, which happens usually every other year. We stock batteries, blankets, candles, etc. along with food….actually, I think it’s time to check my supplies! Thanks for the reminder! ;)

    • Erin says:

      I remember that Julia has also mentioned a number of times that their family lives in a somewhat remote area, so travelling for emergency food and supplies might not be a last-minute option for them. My grandparents always had a huge supply of home canned foods in the basement having lived through the Great Depression, so it has always been a “thing” in my family to stock up. Another item to consider adding to the home emergency kit is a hand-crank radio, batteries always lose power when in long term storage.

      Julia, I love your inspiration photos! It makes so much sense to add more function to that room with your fitness equipment. Am I crazy for being stoked to see what you guys can do with a tiny, dark closet of a room?

    • KP says:

      I live in Canada in a small town far more northern or remote than C&J and I have to say I legitimately have never heard of anyone having this extreme of an emergency food stash. We have severe winter storms and if one is coming, I *might* go to the store the day before for a few extras, but nothing is ever so bad that you can’t live on what is in your cupboards for a few days. Ditto with the power outages. Average time for power outages to last in the US is 3 hours. I know some nasty storms can roll through and knock power out for a few days, but…for SIX MONTHS? Not hating, just really, really surprised.

      • Julia says:

        We’re definitely hopeful we’ll never have to use it in the next 25 years, but we’re also of the mindset to help others where we can.

  20. Steph M. says:

    While I love matching totes, we’ve been buying colors that coordinate with the season. We don’t “store” much other than holiday decorations, so we have orange for fall and red for Christmas. It’s so easy to tell whoever which totes to grab and not sort through things.

  21. Kristine says:

    I did some internet research about bins and decided to go with Sterilite Ultra Latch bins. I have been happy with them so far. I vote for all matching bins.

  22. Sarah Carlson says:

    Oops! Matching totes, not tires. ????

  23. Sarah Carlson says:

    We have our storage in matching tires with a simple number on the front of each and then we keep a key with the number and it’s contents on a sheet of paper in the room. As someone who appreciates easy to use solutions that are also good looking, this has worked really well for our family as contents shift (it’s far easier to reprint a new key than to pull off an old label and restart). Plus there’s one spot to look when you’re searching for something. Good luck!

  24. Allison says:

    What type of emergency food do you have? How many meals for your family of four? I’ve debated purchasing some items but have never done any research on what’s available. I’m the same way with pantry items, aside from the occasional box of pasta, I just don’t have boxed/canned food in the house.

  25. Jules says:

    I don’t recommend color coded storage lids. Your needs will change and ebb and flow and you don’t want to be left with an empty Fall/Orange lidded tupperware that you don’t want to use for your new Christmas items. Go with semi clear or something so you can see inside or a label system you can change.

  26. Jessica says:

    Oh the horror! After listening to your podcast I was secretly hoping for the before picture and it lives up to expectations!!! I have a small cupboard in my one bed flat that is in a similar junk state. Looking forward to seeing your inspiration.

  27. Naomi says:

    Very nice! I too had plans on coordinating fancy boxes for my storage room. In the end, I decided the simplest is the nicest : a pile of IKEA’s folding A4 cardboard boxes (they cost about a dollar in my country) with Washington-taped labels hide all my mess.

  28. What is the brand of these emergency food stuff you’ve got? My bf would like us to have some sort of emergency supply and I have no idea what to take ! Have you taste tried it? I’m curious how decent is it as well ihih

  29. Nicole says:

    Excited to see it finished! I’ve started sorting through our basement storage room too. It’s a tad overwhelming, lol.

  30. Stacy G. says:

    I don’t think you are spending too much time or effort on this storage area. Storage can make all the difference in how a whole house functions. When I procrastinate, I organize closets. :) (PS: I’m all for mostly matching storage containers with labels.)

  31. Megan says:

    Our house had similarly annoying too small shelves along an entire wall of our storage room. Ripping those babies out was the best decision! Looking forward to seeing the final reveal!

    • Sarah says:

      Hi there, it’s Sarah… was it last week y’all asked for Sarah to write in? (I listen to the podcast out of order sometimes) Any who! If y’all think you are going to work out in your new storage room you may want to think about a ceiling fan. Nothing against the new lights or anything… I think they are pretty ????

      • Julia says:

        I think we’re going to go with a wall mounted fan instead. We’re both tall, that mixed with a treadmill and standard 8 ft ceilings aren’t the best combination for a ceiling fan. But we’re definitely gonna want air circulation!

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